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Weinberg: Symphony No. 17 & Suite for Orchestra / Lande, Siberian State Symphony

Release Date: 10/14/2016 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573565  
Composer:  Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Conductor:  Vladimir Lande
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Note: A sound sample for this release can be heard in the above clip at 1:45 - 2:00.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Mieczys?aw Weinberg – whose music was virtually unknown in the West until quite recently – composed, despite the incredible difficulty of the circumstances of his life, an enormous amount of music, including seventeen string quartets and no less than twenty-six symphonies, which puts him, in sheer prolificity among twentieth century symphonists close to Myaskovsky (27), but lagging somewhat behind Havergal Brian (32). Outstanding among Weinberg’s symphonies is the trilogy made up of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth symphonies, collectively entitled On the Threshold of War. This refers to what is known in Russia as The Great Patriotic War, or, in other words, World War Two.

So here we have no.17, ‘Memory’; it is a
Read more four-movement work with what might be thought a relatively conventional profile. But the way Weinberg handles the symphonic form and his material is, in all aspects, highly personal, and it is an unquestionably powerful statement. The movements are: an opening slow movement - Adagio sostenuto - of great intensity; then a fast, furious and lengthy Allegro molto; a much shorter Allegro molto, pesante; and another long movement, marked Andante, to complete the work.

There is, as far as I can ascertain, only one other recording of this symphony, that of a 2013 concert performance by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Fedoseyev. Though that is a committed performance, the sound is rather ‘raw’, and orchestral ensemble is often rough round the edges. The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra, on the Naxos recording, plays well, even if the strings do lack the bloom of a really top-class outfit. The recording is extremely well-balanced, so that wonderful moments, such as the entry of the harpsichord in the second movement, make the maximum impact. In fact, I found this the finest movement of the four; Weinberg constructs the movement so consistently from the various melodic motifs, and the scoring, particularly its use of the two keyboard instruments – piano and harpsichord – is outstandingly atmospheric. The way it eventually resolves into a searing elegy for the high strings is compelling, as is the sense of disintegration at its close.

This is certainly an impressive work, which deserves a distinguished place among the great World War Two symphonies – Vaughan Williams 6, Prokofiev 6, Shostakovich 7 and 8, Copland 3 and Honegger’s Symphonie Liturgique, to name a few of the best known. Inevitably not the most cheerful piece, and some will find it grim. I would prefer the word ‘bracing’, for Weinberg maintains the concentration and the symphonic argument strongly throughout the work’s forty-five minute duration.

But it is demanding, which is why it was such a good idea to begin the CD with something as hugely entertaining as the little Suite for Orchestra of 1950. This is pure delight, and I’d be very surprised if this piece was not now taken up by other orchestras (this is the first recording). The opening Romance has a gorgeously lachrymose theme, first heard in the trumpet, while the Humoresque has deliciously light scoring. The spirit of Shostakovich hovers very close; Weinberg’s third movement recreates perfectly the mood of those haunted and very Russian waltzes found in both of the older composer’s Jazz Suites.

An impressive and enjoyable disc then. And one other thing; we don’t often credit the writers of booklet notes, so I wanted to mention the exemplary notes provided for this issue by Richard Whitehouse. Genuinely helpful and informative, unlike some writers who sometimes appear simply to want to blind us with their musicological ‘insights’. After all, how many of us want - or need – to know what key the music modulates to in bar 63 etcetera, etcetera?

– MusicWeb International (Gwyn Parry-Jones) Read less

Works on This Recording

Suite for Orchestra by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Conductor:  Vladimir Lande
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950 
Symphony no 17, Op. 137 "Memory" by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Conductor:  Vladimir Lande
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982-1984 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 On the Threshold of War Trilogy Completed February 14, 2017 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Symphony No. 17, "Memory," completes Weinberg's massive symphonic trilogy, On the Threshold of War. The three symphonies process the emotional trauma the Russian people suffered during the Second World War. The title, "Memory," references a poem of Anna Akhmatova. "...in the treasure-house of the people's memory, there will always remain the incinerated years of war." The symphony begins somberly, with ambivalent tonality. Over its 45-minute span, the symphony relentlessly builds to its climax. Explosive outbursts disrupt but never derail the momentum of the music. And then, after it reaches its conclusion, the symphony doesn't provide a coda to lower the energy and stop the motion. Rather, it just abruptly stops, letting the sound dissipate into the air -- much like memories of unresolved issues. To my ears, the work resembles Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony in its depiction of conflict, but in a more polished and tightly organized fashion. Yet, as with the "Leningrad," the raw emotional content is never far from the surface. Weinberg experienced the horrors of the Great Patriotic War firsthand. Though he composed the trilogy in the 1980s, the pain seems little dimmed four decades later. Vladimir Lande and the Siberian State Orchestra perform this powerful work with commitment and energy. And with sensitivity, giving Weinberg's introspective passages the delicate poignancy they need. Lande and the SSO have also recorded the other parts of the trilogy: Symphony No. 18, "War -- there is no word more cruel" (Naxos 8.57190), and Symphony No. 19, "Bright May" (Naxos 8.572752). Each work is an effective and complete musical statement. But now that all three parts have been released, I feel compelled to sit down and listen to this trilogy from beginning to end. Only then, I think, can I fully appreciate what Weinberg is trying to communicate." Report Abuse
 Wonderful January 7, 2017 By Mary Norris (Leonardtown, , MD) See All My Reviews "I think this is wonderful." Report Abuse
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